Grand Tour 2012, Stage 1, Chennai to Goa I have been very remiss in blogging about my motorcycle travels recently

. I didn 't publish a word about Grand Tour 2011, my fourth annual "avoid being in Chenna i during the north-east monsoon" bike tour, which started earlier than usual, in late September, escorting a visitor from the USA (hi, Dani !) on a car-and-driv er tour of several of the famous temple towns of Tamil Nadu; continued (by solo motorcycle) with the Bangalore-based RTMC (Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club) Tent h Anniversary meet in Ooty in early October; took me as usual to the Karnataka i nterior and coast, with a quick side trip to Goa for Royal Enfield's annual Ride r Mania in late November; then to the Bulls of Shimoga First Anniversary in Dece mber near Kemmangundi; ten days in Kodagu; and back home to Tamil Nadu for New Y ear's Eve. Given some encouragement by fellow bikers, who have told me they enjoy reading a bout my adventures, I have promised to take to the keyboard again, and do a writ e-up on Grand Tour 2012, which is (obviously) my fifth annual "avoid being in Ch ennai during the north-east monsoon" bike tour. I'm not a fast rider. I'm quite content to loaf along at 60 or 70, with an occas ional push to 80 or 90 in perfect conditions. Potholes, loose gravel, unmarked s peed breakers, stray dogs and cattle, crazy drivers who pass on blind curves -Indian roads can be full of unexpected hazards. A cow dashed in front of me on N H206 near Sagar. If I had been riding any faster, I might not have been able to avoid hitting it. One of the reasons that I don't really enjoy long group rides is that I'm usually the slowpoke in the crowd. For me, 300 km in a day is plenty . I've done 500 km/day twice, and it's too much. A leisurely pace is much more i n my comfort zone. I have no aspirations to join the Iron Butt Club. Until late October, I wasn't even certain that I would do a bike tour this year. Despite the adage "You don't stop riding when you get old; you get old when you stop riding", I have been telling myself for the last couple of years that ther e would come a time when I would start feeling that long-distance bike touring i s getting a bit much for me. As far as I know, I'm the oldest active rider in an y of the south India Bullet clubs. (Cue the Beatles, "Will you still need me, wi ll you still feed me, when I'm 64?") I even did some research on how to cover much of my planned itinerary by train. (Hey, I'm eligible for the senior citizen discount!) But just to be ready, I got my bike serviced well in advance, bought a couple of months supply of cat food for the Gang of Four, made sure I had enough funds on hand and in the bank, watched the local and en-route weather forecasts, especia lly after the early onset of the rains, and decided on a departure date of 31st October. Cyclone Nilam arrived that very day, hitting the Tamil Nadu coast near Mamallapuram, with heavy rains and gale-force winds, so I delayed my departure a couple of days, and left home under sunny skies on 2nd November. Fortunately, N ilam wasn't anywhere near as devastating as Hurricane Sandy was in USA and Canad a. All five of my Bangalore connections were either out of town or unable to host m e, so I stopped for the first night at a lodge in Hosur, after a comfortable 300 km ride. The following itinerary will sound familiar to those who have read my previous t ravelogues, since I've started three out of five of my annual trips with roughly the same route, although the post-Goa ride is different each year. From Hosur, I bypassed Bangalore on the NICE Ring Road (finished at last), took the Tumkur highway to NH48, (also finished, at least the section I rode, up to t he turnoff for Sri Adichunchanagiri Mutt), spent a couple of nights at the ashra

and settled into my usual room at Vaibhav N ivas Lodge. But Kenith in Shimoga t old me the Gersoppa route has been repaired. and NH17 up the coast has some perfectly dreadful bi ts. If you hit any of them at highway speeds. south Goa. 23-25 Novembe r.0 litres! And of course beer and booze is cheaper too. (Phone 08386-257980 or 098863 35937. so I spent three pleas ant days there before heading north to Vagator for Rider Mania IV. you'd take a nasty spill for sure. had a last-minute cancellation. Anyway. I made it safely to Gokarna. and has much better roads. so last year I had gone via Sir si. In Tamil Nadu. Usually when I buy petrol. Fortunately. the road is certainly in better condition than it was a couple of years ago. so I looked around a bit for alternatives. Naveen. but I think the potholes st ill claimed more territory than the repair crew did. but has alre ady started to deteriorate. A pleasant surprise when crossing into Goa: petrol is nearly Rs 20/litre cheaper than in Karnataka.0 litres. in Karnataka. I get Rs 500 at a time. and Subbu for hosting me!) A couple of years back I had ridden from Shimoga to the coast via the Gersoppa g hat/ Honavar route. my favourite guest house in ) Stay tuned for further updates! . which was in terrible shape. opposite the temple and muc h closer to the beach.) My yoga teacher G anesh started up his classes after I had been in Gokarna for a week. to Goa. so I took his advice and rode via Gersoppa. so I got in some good stretching for a few days before leaving on the next stage of my adve ntures. Deepak. and got a very n ice room for only Rs 300 at Padma Laxmi Guest House. they have upped their rates by 50% from last year. which is only 5km longer.6 litres. (link: http://www. I did see a road-patching team at work. Well. 6. and continued on to Shimoga for a three night stop to visit fri ends. But inflation seems to have hit hard. that gets me 7. and it's now Sirsi which has the ba d riding conditions. 9.m's guest house. To be fair.royalenfield. (Thanks. in Goa. which was fully book ed when I called earlier.

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